Opera's Decision To Close Stuns Arts Community

By Brian McCreath & WGBH News

Dec. 23, 2011

BOSTON — A mere eight months after a production that debuted on its stage won the 2011 Pulitzer Prize in Music, Opera Boston announced on Dec. 27 that it’s shutting down for good on Jan. 1 of the new year.

A terse, one-paragraph press release cited an “insurmountable budget deficit” and “lackluster fundraising in a tough economic climate.”

Lloyd Schwartz, classical music editor for the Boston Phoenix and classical music critic for NPR's “Fresh Air,” talked with Classical New England about what led to the collapse of the adventurous opera company and what it means for subscribers and opera in Boston.

lloyd schwartz
Classical critic Lloyd Schwartz (K. Bonami)

“It was a surprise,” Schwartz said, sounding a little gobsmacked. “It sounded like things were going well.”

Boston Lyric Opera recently released a press release (pdf) saying it had had a banner year for fundraising. Schwartz couldn’t imagine that the BLO’s success didn’t hurt Opera Boston’s bottom line: “You probably wouldn’t support both of them.”

The remainder of the season has been canceled. Schwartz thought the subscribers would probably get their money back. “The people I feel the worst about are the musicians, who were certainly counting on a couple of good gigs — three performances of each opera plus rehearsals,” Schwartz said.

That said, Schwartz pointed out that Boston does have a somewhat checkered history of supporting the art form: “This is a city that tore down its great opera house” in the middle of the last century.

The company’s final performance will take place Dec. 31 as part of First Night Boston.

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